McChrystal and Obama

MCCHRYSTAL AND OBAMA…. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told CBS News the other day that he’d spoken to President Obama, via video teleconference, only once in recent months. Karl Rove argues in his column today that this is a “troubling revelation.”

Right now, our commander in chief is preparing to make one of the most important decisions of his presidency — whether to commit additional troops to win the war in Afghanistan. Being detached or incurious about what our commanders are experiencing makes it hard to craft a winning strategy.

Yes, Karl Rove feels comfortable criticizing this president for being “incurious.” It’s hard not to laugh out loud reading Rove’s columns sometimes.

He added that the president has a “hands-off approach to the war” and has “aloofness on the war.”

…George W. Bush talked to generals on the ground every week or two, which gave him a window into what was happening and insights into how his commanders thought. That helped him judge their recommendations on strategy.

Given the ways in which the Bush/Cheney team floundered in Afghanistan, failed to develop a coherent strategy, diverted resources, and allowed the Taliban to recover, it takes a certain amount of chutzpah for Karl Rove to lecture the commander in chief.

That said, this notion of President Obama not talking to McChrystal often enough is becoming increasingly common in far-right circles, and is being used to bash the White House as somehow not taking the war in Afghanistan seriously. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to note reality.

It’s true that McChrystal and the president only spoke once over the summer. It’s also true that this is how it’s generally (no pun intended) supposed to work. McChrystal reports to Central Command, which in turn communicates with the White House. Did Bush “talk to generals on the ground” more often? Yes, but that didn’t produce a more effective strategy. Steve Coll reported last year on the Bush White House utilizing video teleconferences in a way that “did not conform to a normal chain of command.”

Tim Fernholz explained the other day, “Essentially, bypassing Central Command made it harder for President Bush to weigh the costs and benefits of actions in Iraq against broader U.S. responsibilities around the world — a troubling loss of perspective that is doubly concerning as Americans begin to face up to the consequences of our long under-resourced conflict in Afghanistan, which was left by the wayside as the government pivoted to focus on Iraq.”

Maybe Rove understands this and wants to take a cheap and unnecessary shot at the administration, or maybe Rove is just confused. Either way, describing Obama as “aloof on the war” is pathetic, even by Rove’s standards.